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Beyond the Music: The Food and Drink Experience at GB Festivals

Insights from CGA by NIQ’s latest Festivals Report provide a comprehensive and thought-provoking overview of the festival industry, the 2023 festival season, and the future of festivals in 2024 and beyond.

The festival industry is set to thrive, with a third of festival goers planning to visit more festivals in 2024, while a further half intending to maintain their visits. Operators agree with this optimism and expect ticket sales to increase by 10pp, taking total sales to 82%.


So, what are the key factors keeping festival crowds flocking back for more? Music is the key driver, with almost half of festival goers basing their decision to attend on the headliners, and more than half on the quality of the overall line-up.


It’s good news for food and drink vendors, for whom festivals are captive audiences. So, what can they do to increase their market share? When asked, half of festival goers say they’d like to see more free samples available.


Vendor costs for producing and serving free samples can be easily outweighed by potentially impressive ROI. Making ‘try before you buy’ freebies available increases likelihood to trial and encourages path to purchase, especially as notoriously hiked costs at festivals mean more risk to consumers choosing new food or drink options.


Festival season also holds huge potential to influence consumers drinks choice, as three in five said they’d tried new drinks at festivals that they hadn’t had previously. Festival goers are a captive audience for drinks brands looking to showcase products, but standing out is crucial to stay at the forefront of the consumers mind, not just during, but also beyond the festival season. A way to capture attention from these consumers is through unique bold activations that are sure to add to the consumers memorable festival experience.


In terms of marketing, three quarters of festival goers follow their favourite artistes, bands, and DJs on social media, with 68% also using social media to source festivals. It’s become the leading way to successfully publicise festivals, above family and friend recommendations and other advertising methods. In fact, one third of festival goers agree they would visit less festivals if there was no coverage on social media.


This highlights the imperative of social media in the path to purchase journey. Accordingly, it makes a solid case for food and drink vendors to get creative with their social media strategies to optimise awareness and sales before the crowds come through the gates, and when they’re on-site.


In addition, sustainability continues to be a hot topic, with 32% of festival goers becoming more concerned with the environmental impacts caused by festivals. For this reason, over half of festival goers are more likely to visit festivals with low carbon footprints, slightly more than those who are driven to attend to support charitable causes. This highlights sustainability as another area in which food and drink vendors can score big with highly lucrative but increasingly discerning festival crowds.


Matthew Meek, Senior Client Manager said: “Food and drink vendors play a pivotal role in the festival experience. But success on the festival circuit shouldn’t be taken for granted. Operators need to carefully consider strategic promotion and pricing, while embedding sustainable practices. These are the factors aligning with festival goers’ values, making them key for creating advocacy in an environment known for its premium costs. With 56% (+12pp) of attendees in 2024 preferring festivals they’ve previously enjoyed, getting these elements right is crucial for building lasting festival legacies.”


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